The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Published by FolletBound, 1996
Interest Level: 6th-8th grades
Reading Level: 7.1
“I’m going to give you something, and you must promise to keep it private. Will you swear to that?”
“Yes, “Lyra said.
He crossed to the desk and took from a drawer a small package wrapped in black velvet. When he unfolded the cloth, Lyra saw something like a large watch or a small clock: a thick disc of gold and crystal. It might have been a compass or something of the sort. ….
Lyra Belacqua lives in an alternate universe that is like ours, but with a few major differences. For one, the humans have souls called daemons which are shape shifting animals that live outside their bodies and have the ability to speak to their own human, or others if they so choose.
Lyra is something of a rambunctious child; adventurous, strong-willed, fearless, a natural-born leader. Quite a handful for the older, scholarly professors at Jordan College, where she resides. As children in the town where she lives begin disappearing, Lyra’s natural curiosity begins to take over and she begins to investigate the disappearances. But when one of her close friends disappears, she embarks on a desperate journey to find him and find out what is going on.
Before Lrya can leave on her journey, she is abruptly sent to live with a woman she barely knows. While staying with the lady, Lyra finds out that her uncle has been taken captive and imprisoned in the North by armor-wearing bears. Now, not only does she need to find and rescue the missing children but her uncle as well. She is going to need all the help she can get….
From the Reviewer: I don’t normally review books that have had movies made from them, but as there is a lot of controversy surrounding this book and the trilogy, and since it was in my local school library, I thought I would give it a read. First, I liked this book. I thought Philip Pullman did a good job of creating and detailing his characters, and I had a very real sense of who I would root for and who I wouldn’t. The pacing is good, and even though Pullman gets wordy he manages to not get too bogged down by details. Second, I will upfront tell you that it is not a book intended for younger readers, regardless of what the press says. I would rate this book at about 6th grade level minimum on up, if only for its content and difficulty. Third, even based on the fact that Philip Pullman is apparently an atheist and wrote this as a snub if you will at God in general, I could really only find one section that gave me pause. In chapter 21, Pullman writes as though the character is reading a passage out of Chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis from “their” bible. He takes a very large dollop of creative license in this section. I can understand where this would make people uncomfortable. Fourth, (Spoiler Alert!) Pullman describes a process where children are separated from their deamons which is akin to murder in our world. So as always, I suggest parents peruse this book with your young reader and determine if this is a good fit for him or her.
P.S. Some have compared this trilogy to the Harry Potter series and I just can’t see it. I believe a more accurate comparison would be to C.S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. With the knowledge, of course, that C.S. Lewis wrote in favor of God and Philip Pullman wrote in favor of a disbelief in God.